Letter: Campaign should be clean

By Ben Goren  / 

Fri, Mar 02, 2007 - Page 8

Now that three out of the "big four" of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) have declared their intention to run in DPP presidential primary, it is a good time to remind the DPP's leadership that a clean, honest and fair campaign is essential -- not only to improve the party's image with the general population, but to avoid giving opposition parties fuel for their own campaigns.

Former premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷), DPP Chairman Yu Shyi-kun and Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) all hold considerable political capital within their own party -- not to mention, in varying degrees, with the Taiwanese public.

They also share the burden of not wanting to waste such a hard won resource. Whereas the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) has no natural affinity with democratic processes and will therefore most likely select their leader through a series of somewhat clouded contortions and negotiations, the DPP cannot afford this "luxury."

DPP candidates have to undergo the far more potentially painful process of open campaigning, which requires not only party acceptance but public acceptance.

The guiding principle of the primaries must therefore be that each candidate delivers a coherent, progressive yet constructive and positive platform for election.

This is not an election for a banana republic but rather for the highest office in this country and it requires the respect that should be accorded to it. That means these candidates must present themselves as leaders capable not just of the domestic political savvy that appeals across the party spectrum, but also as individuals capable of leadership on the international stage.

The DPP primaries would do well to be characterized by a complete absence of any negative campaigning, either against other candidates or parties. This will be difficult but it will ultimately demonstrate a maturity and respect for democracy that will help the electorate believe that whoever wins will be a potentially trustworthy, steady and sincere leader.

I hope that the candidates will focus on the issues of environmental protection, clean, open and efficient government, welfare and labor protection, economic development, national security and issues of constitutional improvement in that order.

I hope that they will avoid sensational promises of independence (why promise something you already have?), character slurs and short-lived gambits to raise their own popularity at the expense of party unity. Central to each candidate's presentation must be a genuine desire to protect and maintain the sovereignty of the Taiwanese people and a refusal to even entertain dubious speculation about so-called "ethnic tensions."

For their part, the KMT will need to field a candidate who can unite the country while critically respecting the right of the Taiwanese to self-determination.

This will be problematic given their lack of candidates that can command the trust and respect of a majority of people at the national level outside of Taipei.

Above all, both parties would do well to avoid looking at US presidential elections for guidance on how to run a campaign of substance.

The Taiwanese public are rapidly maturing politically and crying out for respectable and committed leaders who are not so easily tainted by the accusations they so carelessly throw against others. William Arthur Wood, a 19th century pottery magnate, once said that leadership is based on inspiration, not domination; on cooperation, not intimidation.

Now is the time for those who lead to justify why they should continue to do so.

Ben Goren